Shawn Parks was among the dozens of former Paine players who were on hand to honor Lions coach Ron Spry for his 20 years of service during halftime of Saturday night's homecoming game against Stillman College.
Moments later, Parks returned to his spot opposite Spry as Stillman's head coach.
The smile never left Parks' face, even after his Tigers suffered a 74-58 defeat to the Lions in front of an overflow crowd at the Richmond County gymnasium.
"I hate losing, but if I have to lose, I'd want it to be to coach Spry," said Parks, who played for Spry (1989-91) and was an assistant coach on Paine's 1999 SIAC championship team. "It was great coming home. All those players and coach Spry are my family. I miss them, because I learned so much while I was at Paine."
The Lions (13-8) led by as many as 22 points in the second half. Yari Scott led the way with 22 points and Colin Jamerson added 14 for Paine, which has won two in a row.
In the first half, Paine took a double-digit lead after Jamerson drilled a jumper to put the Lions ahead 20-10 midway through.
The Lions had a 17-point lead with 3:10 remaining, but poor Paine free throw shooting and defensive rebounding allowed the Tigers (6-12) to claw their way back in, cutting the lead to nine points after rolling off a 7-0 run.
"I don't get any joy out winning this game because Shawn (Parks) is like my son," Spry said. "I was happy to see him as a coach. Sometimes you don't really understand how you touch peoples lives until moments like halftime when you see all the kids."
In the women's game, the Lady Lions remained hot, posting their fifth straight victory and sixth in seven games with a 68-59 win over Stillman.
Michelle Sheffey led four Lady Lions in double figures with 17 points, connecting on 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Germaletta Dyson played a lesser role on offense, scoring 10 points, but owned the boards, pulling down a game-high 17 rebounds to record a double-double.
Dyson, averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds in Paine's previous five games, drew a box-and-one defense as the game opened, allowing the Lady Lions to bomb away from the perimeter.
"She's been getting a lot of attention," Paine coach Selena Bynum said of Dyson. "We saw they were concentrating on her, so we hit some from outside and got it right back down into her. Our guards did a good job of hitting their shots. Every game now is just preparing us for the conference tournament."
The Lady Lions (8-13) opened with a 10-0 run, highlighted by two Clensy Warren 3-pointers. The Lady Tigers (5-12) finally got on the scoreboard with 15:10 left when Rekina Allen sank a jumper to cut the lead to eight.
After the slow start, Stillman crawled back into the game, cutting the lead to seven twice in the final eight minutes. But Paine's outside touch and suffocating defense kept the Lady Tigers at bay.
The Lady Lions built a 22-point lead in the second half, but did most of their damage in the opening 20 minutes.
Sheffey came off the bench to score 14 first-half points, knocking down four of Paine's seven first-half 3-pointers. Warren, who scored 11 of her 13 points before halftime, drilled the other three from long range.
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395